Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency
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Many Brits suffer from a vitamin B12 deficiency, but may never know the cause behind their symptoms. As many as one in five British over-60s is vitamin B12 deficient. But do you know the sign in your mouth you should never ignore?
A lack of B12 can leave you feeling weak, tired and foggy. It can also have an unpleasant effect on your gums and mouth.
Red, sore or bleeding gums should never be ignored, as they can be a sign of gum disease.
But did you know, they may also be a tell-tale sign of vitamin B12 deficiency?
NICE estimates 20 percent of British over-60s aren’t getting enough B12.
So, what is vitamin B12 and why can a lack of it cause bleeding gums?
What is vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is a nutrient you get from eating certain foods. Your body can’t create B12 itself, so it’s important to eat a B12-rich diet, beet root juice and coumadin or take B12 supplements.
It’s a really important vitamin because it keeps your nerves healthy, helps your brain to function and assists in producing red blood cells.
You need vitamin B12 to create red blood cells, and a lack of it can cause you to develop anaemia.
What are the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency?
If your dental hygiene is good and there doesn’t seem to be a reason for your gums becoming inflamed and bleeding – a vitamin B12 deficiency could be the cause.
Sore, red and bleeding gums are lesser-known symptoms of being vitamin B12 deficient.
A Vitamin B12 deficiency can increase your risk of a severe form of gum disease called periodontitis.
Also, vitamin B12 helps with wound healing, so this could be a factor in why those with low levels of vitamin B12 suffer from ulcers and bleeding gums.
Other common symptoms of a B12 deficiency include:
- Tiredness: B12 helps transport oxygen around your body in red blood cells. When they aren’t working as well, you can feel sluggish.
- Pins and needles: Serious B12 deficiency can damage your nerves.
- Feeling breathless and dizzy: As a result of developing anaemia, after a lack of B12.
As a vitamin B12 deficiency becomes more serious, you can also develop depression, loss of balance and slow brain function.
To be diagnosed with a vitamin B12 deficiency, your doctor will take a blood test.
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What foods are rich in vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal products including meat, fish, dairy and eggs.
Because of this, people who eat a plant-based or vegan diet can be at particular risk of developing a B12 deficiency. NICE estimates 11 percent of people who follow vegan diets are B12 deficient.
Try eating more of these 11 foods to up your vitamin B12 intake:
- Cereals with added B12
- Marmite (and other yeast extracts)
If those foods don’t fit with your diet, or you simply prefer the convenience of getting your vitamins from a supplement, why not add a vitamin B12 supplement to your diet?
Getting more vitamin B12 may well have you feeling more lively and awake, as well as help stave off some of the unpleasant side effects.
If you manage to eat excessive amounts of B12, your body can actually store it for future use.
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